pattern flags are some of the most beautiful of
all antique American flags. This flag of 38 stars
embodies the pinnacle of medallion flag making,
during the period inclusive of the American Centennial
celebration of 1876. The grand, large center star,
representing Colorado, is surrounded by an inner
wreath of 13 stars, representing the 13 original states.
The outer ring of 20 stars is then flanked by four
corner stars. While the presence of corner stars on a
medallion flag is somewhat common, I always wonder at
its symbolism. Although its possible they merely
balance the composition and fill the void, I also
believe they symbolize the idea of "sea to shining sea";
anchoring all four corners of the nation and in some
ways, symbolic of America's expanse north, south, east
and west. For this flag, the maker allowed the stars to "dance"
or rotate in various directions, and subtle variations
in spacing also add to the flag's folky feel. The
unusually wide hoist is an interesting characteristic,
and adds to the flag's elongated style.
The entire flag is
machine sewn, and a light stencil on the hoist is good
indication that the flag was manufactured and sold, not
homemade. The stars of the flag are stitched using
a lineal stitch around the edges of the flag, which is a
technique most often seen in the period from the
Centennial to the mid-1890's.. The flag is in
an extraordinarily state of preservation, appearing
nearly new. Family lore surrounding the flag is
that it was once in the possession of William "Buffalo
Bill" Cody (b. 1846, d. 1917), and a name on the hoist,
written in later period ink, reads "C. H. Decker".
Although a personal connection between the flag and
Buffalo Bill can most likely never be made positively,
the family lore is credible. The flag descended in the
through family of Bill Cody's youngest sister, Mrs. May
(Mary Hannah) Cody Decker (b. 1853, d. 1926).
According to accounts of the day, Bill often took May
with him on trips across the plains, and the two were
extremely close throughout life. Bill died at
May's home in Denver, Colorado, on January 10, 1917 at
the age of 71, and it's very possible that this flag
belonged to Bill at one time and was among his personal
effects at the time of his death. The blue colored
ink of the name written on the hoist is later period,
and does not date to the age of the flag (1876-1890).
Most likely, a Decker family member wrote their name on
the flag at a later time.